Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Today our two stops focused on remembering events that were important to 20th century US history, which was perfect since that has been our focus this year. We started out in Little Rock by visiting the site of Central High School. We had read all about the Little Rock Nine last month and our whole family was appalled by what happened there when 9 black students attempted to integrate in 1957. It was neat to go and see the visitor's center where they have displays which attempt to tell the story of what happened there. Then, we tromped across the street to take a few photos. Because the high school is still in operation, we couldn't actually go inside, but we were able to stand out front and imagine the events that happened there 50 years ago.

Central High, which was "hugemongous", according to Abe. And yes, he said huge monguous.

Did I mention that it was cold? Notice they're huddling.
Abe just wanted to lounge on a bench outside of the visitor's center, but since our teeth were chattering, we vetoed that idea.

Lizzy was listening intently to one of the recorded accounts they had, featuring folks who were involved in the events at Central High.

After leaving Little Rock, we headed toward Oklahoma City. The drive was longer than we'd hoped it would be as we hit some sort of issue on I-40. We were parked on the interstate for almost an hour. The one bright spot in the whole thing was that after our lengthy setback, we decided to make a pit stop and ended up finding an Oklahoma treasure called Braum's. This is apparently a dairy chain that comes from a large local farm. I don't know all of the details, but I do know that we ate generous portions of delicious, creamy, ice cream for a very reasonable price. We all ate cones for about the same amount of cash that Ryan and I would spend for just the 2 of us to have an ice cream at Cold Stone. And it was good, really good!

That put us pulling into Oklahoma City just in time to see the Oklahoma City National Memorial at sunset, which was perfect timing. I had read a book about the bombing to everyone as we were driving from Little Rock, so we had a good idea of what to expect. I have to say that it was overwhelmingly sad, but beautifully done. The kids had lots of questions and we tried to answer them, but the bottom line is, it is just a tragic thing that is beyond comprehension.

This fence was originally erected to provide a barrier for the bombing site. Many left mementos, notes, and such. When the memorial was created, they decided to leave a portion of it up. It was sad, but fascinating to explore.

This is one of the "gates of time" that you enter through. One of the gates is 9:01 and one is 9:03 and between the two gates is the memorial which reflects the tragedy that happened at 9:02.
These 168 empty chairs each represent one of the victims that was killed. They each have a name engraved on the base. There are 19 which are smaller and represent the children who perished.
Here are the chairs, all lit up as the sun was setting.

This is the view we saw as we were exiting the 9:03 gate.
The church across the street has erected this statue of Christ, He is turned away from the sight in despair, covering his face, and weeping.

Tomorrow should be a little more light-hearted. Overall, things are off to a great start. We've made it through our longest driving days until we start to head back toward the Atlantic in a few weeks and I'm very thankful for that. I'm also excited because it looks like we'll be able to peel off the hoodies and raincoats tomorrow. C'mon sunshine!

*I have no idea why a portion of this is underlined and I can't get it off. But, I'm giving up and leaving it that way!

Heavenly Biscuits

Yesterday saw us waking in Nashville, TN to a chilly, but sunny morning. After Ryan and I took turns on the treadmill (we were already anticipating our lunch consumption) we headed out to see Nashville's Parthenon replica at Centennial Park. It's a huge, full scale replica of the one in Greece which was originally built for a spectacular Centennial celebration that TN had in the late 1800s. In the last 30 years, they've added an amazing statue of Athena which is supposed to be similar to the one that the real Parthenon was built to house.

We're glad we went, but I must say it wouldn't make the list again. The building and the Athena statue really were grand, but they didn't do the best job of sharing the story behind the structure. Maybe if we had been one of the gazillions of kids that were there on a school field trip yesterday, we would have gotten more info. Anyway, we all have a strong visual now of what the Parthenon actually would have looked like and we got to brush up a little bit on our Greek Mythology. So all in all, it was a win.

Big, REALLY big!

This baby is 42 feet tall!
Here we are looking at a replica of the artwork that is found on the Parthenon. We were trying to figure out who was who. I think I was pointing out Hermes at this point. The kids could always quickly find Zeus, Poseidon, Medusa, and Athena. The others were a little trickier.
When we were taking pictures outside, there was a camera crew filming a commercial for the Nashville Sounds baseball team. Their mascot, Ozzy, called the kids over and gave them high fives and posed for this photo.

Then, we headed for an incredible lunch at the Loveless Cafe. Let me just say, in my opinion, it's everything that the Food Network promised it would be. Those biscuits, oh my! The fried chicken was also delicious. The atmosphere is fun and full of nostalgia. We didn't see anyone famous there (although Ryan and I readily admitted to the kids we probably wouldn't recognize them if we did.) But, we did sit next to a camera crew from the Lifetime network. After they finished eating, we got to watch them film all over the restaurant for some sort of a cooking competition show that will air in the future. That was fun.

Wish you could have had one, they were delicious!
Anxiously anticipating all of the fried chicken, mac and cheese, meatloaf, and mashed potatos that would soon be arriving.
Lily was posing in their front entrance which is covered with signed photos of many of the famous folks who have eaten at the Loveless.

The day ended with our longest stretch of driving yet. We crossed through Memphis and into Arkansas in the pouring rain. I have to say, that Arkansas, in the rain, in March has not impressed me thus far. But, maybe as we explore Little Rock today in the sunshine, I'll find more to love.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Campbell Circus goes on Tour

Well, after months of planning and preparation, our cross country trip is finally here! We are so excited to be setting off on a four week adventure together. We took off yesterday, right after Ryan finished up his responsibilities at church. It was an odd feeling when we drove away and for several hours he kept saying, "I can't believe I don't have a job." It's a little scary, but we're
also excited about these months of family time.
Yesterday afternoon, we drove the first stretch and stopped at Ridgecrest, near Asheville, NC. It's one of our favorite places, where we have tons of memories from our 4 years serving on summer staff there. They also give a great ministerial discount, so we try to stop there whenever we need a resting place. We enjoyed pizza at our favorite pizza joint, My Father's Pizza and then we savored some ice cream at Kilwin's to celebrate Abby and Isaac's baptism yesterday morning. It was a great way to kick off the trip. We returned to the hotel just in time to watch the KY Wildcats defeat the UNC Tarheels to advance to the final four. We were squaling and screaming like a bunch of idiots in that hotel, but it was fun.
This morning we packed up and made our way to Nashville, TN. We stopped off for lunch at Fazoli's, which is a restaurant that was a staple for Ryan and I when we were dating. We can't get it where we live, so we thought we'd take advantage of the cheap eats. The kids absolutely loved it (especially the breadsticks) and they were asking if we could find another one on our way home.
After that, we spent the afternoon exploring the Hermitage, which was the home of President Andrew Jackson. That was such a neat place. My favorite feature is that they have a very easy to use audio tour that is included with your ticket. They have one for the kids and the adults, so everyone can listen at their own level and learn lots about all there is to see. It was very well done. The tour and grounds were informative, well-kept, and yet child friendly. I highly recommend it!
After that, we made our way to hotel and then met up with some friends for dinner. We ate at the Caney Fork River Valley Grille and the kids had a blast petting the catfish in the restaurant. We decided we wanted to extend our visit with our friends, so we walked over to the Opryland Hotel and enjoyed chasing our children through the various flower gardens and waterfalls. It was a great start to the trip. Tomorrow we're moving on to a new city and making a little more progress toward the Pacific Coast.

Isaac was enamored with this cool tree at the Hermitage.
Getting ready to enter the mansion, and Abe was out cold (which may have been a good thing.)
Flowers were blooming everywhere, so pretty!

They were listening intently to their audio, which must have been explaining the purpose of their boot scraper. At first, Lily told me that this must be where they lock up their bikes!
Abe awoke in plenty of time to enjoy romping the grounds. Here, he and Isaac were exploring a slave cabin.

The tomb of Rachel and Andrew Jackson. From the lengthy and kind inscription on her tomb, he obviously loved her dearly. On his own tomb, he simply had inscribed, "General Andrew Jackson." along with his birth and death dates.

This donkey cracked us up as he talked and smiled on command.
The Campbell and Rainey kids had a great time sharing dinner at the Caney Fork River Valley Grill!

All of that romping around the Opryland Hotel made for some very thirsty kiddos!

Closing up Shop

The last couple of weeks have been totally crazy. We have been juggling "normal" life stuff while also packing up our "cute and tiny" apartment and preparing for a season of homelessness. It's been an exhausting couple of weeks, but we survived. The apartment is vacant, our stuff is reduced to a small storage space plus what we carried to grandma's house, and we've struck out on the open road for a cross country adventure. Here are a few photos of these last couple of weeks:

Lily lost her first tooth in the midst of the packing. Hooray!
We shared dinner with some friends in our cute and tiny apartment. This is a fun friendship for me, because even though I consider this gal one of my dear friends, we've hardly spent any time face to face. She and her family live overseas and while Ryan has been to visit them, I had barely met them. Through a variety of circumstances, we have developed a friendship via Facebook and e-mail and we were thrilled to actually spend some time together in the flesh. She was just as delightful as I imagined she would be!

Lizzy and her good friend Alexa decided to swap shoes one Wednesday night at church. Needless to say, both mommas were ready to clobber them when they came home with mismatched shoes. Here they are a couple of days later, preparing to swap back. Crazy girls!

Nana and Pap came to visit and treated us to a yummy dinner at the Macaroni Grill. They were kind enough to haul home a small trailer with some of our special goodies. Things like the kid's yearly school portfolios and special memory boxes are now safely tucked away in their attic.

The kids have had a great time playing with our seminary apartment neighbors. They are truly going to miss the community we found there. Here is Lily with her friend, Katelyn.
Empty kitchen cabinets can sure provide for fun times in the middle of packing.

This is the way my world has looked the last couple of weeks. Boxes, tubs, totes, and piles. I am confident the stuff just multiplies!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Under the Big Top

Nine years ago, just after our 3rd child was born, some dear friends invited us over for dinner. I warned her that our life was in total chaos and that we felt like a circus act all the time. I joked that if she wanted to have Ringling Bros. over, we'd be glad to come. We chuckled, she accepted the challenge, and from then on, we became affectionately known as the Campbell Circus. If we were a sight to behold then, you can just imagine how wild our 3 rings are with our current number. We've gotten lots of laughs through the years with our circus references.
It seemed only fitting that when our church decided they wanted to have a special send-off for us, they did it circus style. Tonight, we were so blessed by our church family as they held a celebration in our honor. We were so humbled as it was obvious that many people had put a whole lot of energy into finding creative ways to share our story, show us love, and encourage others to follow God's call in their own lives.

Here were a couple of the reminders they used to spread the word. Creativity abounds with that bunch, I tell ya!

Some other creative folks transformed the stage into a big top!
The ringmaster who welcomed everyone.
Here's my dad modeling one of the many clown noses that was being sported around Kidztown.
Lizzy and her new found friend, "Chuckles."
A few lovely faces munching on circus peanuts and animal crackers while waiting for their turn to go through the inflatable circus train. We have loved, LOVED, loved serving the families of Kidztown for almost six years, what a privilege it has been!

We are so thankful to have been a part of a church body who is passionate and strategic about reaching the world for Christ. We are excited that our send-off has coincided with Faith's "Here We Go" missions expansion endeavor. We can't wait to hear about all of the ways that Faith Baptist Church is going to reach their community and their world for Christ in the years to come!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Letting Go

One thing about deciding to move to the other side of the world, is that many people are affected by your decision. Grandparents are saddened, children face transition, employers have to make adjustments, and all of these can be tough to face. I have often faced guilt or worry at different turns in this process and it has been the source of much prayer.

One of the areas where I’ve grieved the most is with our schooling. I love homeschooling and it has been a good fit for our family thus far. But, we’re not sure that it will be a long term choice for us. In fact, when we first get to West Africa, we are seriously considering putting them in an academy there that our agency supports. It would be a good educational opportunity for them, and it’s strongly encouraged during our time of language learning and cultural adjustment. So, we’re praying through the release of that part of our life. It’s a big deal to me for several reasons.

First of all, let’s be honest. When you homeschool, you feel a lot of pressure for your children to have solid academic skills, especially if they are going to transition into a school environment. The bottom line is, if my students are behind, I am largely responsible for that. My discipline or lack of discipline largely dictates their skills in the early grades. While every child is different in their strengths and weaknesses, most homeschool moms at least want to see their students perform on grade level. For me, there has been this constant nagging worry that I haven’t done my job well.

We have worked really diligently this year on our school work. Knowing that transition and a possible school environment were on the horizon, I have tried hard to make every day as free of distractions as possible. I’ve worked to have lessons ready for the children each Monday morning so that our instructional time can be well used. But, even with all of those measures, life happens and interruptions come.

One of my students struggles with Spelling. The crazy thing is, she’s a math whiz, a voracious reader, and she’s fearless in putting her ideas down on paper. But, when it comes to using the conventions of dictionary spelling, she has trouble. Knowing that, I decided to choose a more intense spelling program for her to use. The thing is, it’s teacher intensive, which means I have to be involved. So you can imagine, with selling a house, traveling, and preparing to travel, it has often sat on the shelf for a week or two at a time. And, I’ve worried a bit about that.

Last week, when we spent most of the week in KY for Ryan’s granny’s funeral, I couldn’t help but think about that darn spelling that wasn’t getting done. I knew that the things we were experiencing were important life lessons. I knew that the relationships we were investing in were important. But, I also knew that none of that was doing anything to improve her Spelling skills. On the way back from KY, I was sharing with Ryan my concerns about the children and the fact that time for structured lessons was slipping through my fingers too quickly. I said to him, “I know that God has not been surprised by any of these interruptions. He knew that we would sell our house and have to move. He knew that I would get a head injury in the middle of all of it. He knew that your grandmother would die and he knew that I would lose a week with vertigo. He also knows that I am being the very best steward of our school time that I know how to be. So, I am going to choose to release this concern about school to Him.” And I did. Or at least I tried to. And I just reminded myself every time that I wanted to get anxious about it of what I had said to Ryan.

The Lord is so tender with me when I confess these things to Him. This weekend, the first morning that I got to my hotel, I opened my suitcase before getting in the shower and I found a surprise note from my struggling speller. The words were sweet, but what really struck me was that only one of those words was spelled incorrectly. And it was if the Lord just said to me. Trust me, trust ME. I love your children, I will take care of the needs of your children. Just be obedient to what I have called you to do.

I got into the shower and just spent a few minutes in prayer with Him, thanking Him for using that bright orange note, written in red marker to remind me that He cares about the details of my life. I was singing in the shower, “I Surrender All.” Even the Spelling lessons. Then, I got out of the shower and went to the computer where I decided to pull up The Utmost for HIs Highest devotional for the day. When it came up on the screen the title said, “Total Surrender.” and the following selection really affirmed everything that I felt God was telling me that morning.

“Where does Jesus Christ figure in when we have a concern about our natural relationships? Most of us will desert Him with this excuse—”Yes, Lord, I heard you call me, but my family needs me and I have my own interests. I just can’t go any further” (see Luke 9:57-62). “Then,” Jesus says, “you ’cannot be My disciple’ ” (see Luke 14:26-33).

True surrender will always go beyond natural devotion. If we will only give up, God will surrender Himself to embrace all those around us and will meet their needs, which were created by our surrender. Beware of stopping anywhere short of total surrender to God. Most of us have only a vision of what this really means, but have never truly experienced it.”

I am so thankful that I serve a God who desires to be in relationship with me. I am so thankful that He pursues me, even when I am being bull-headed. I am so thankful for His word, which ministers to me in every area of my life. I rest in verses like these, “ Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” Isaiah 26:3

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


This weekend, I did something that was VERY out of character for me. I climbed on a plane, by myself, and flew to Atlanta with no objective except to have fun. I met up with the 3 long time friends from college who were bridesmaids in my wedding. I had a fabulous weekend and, as I sit in the airport, ready to fly home, I am excited about seeing my family. I find that my children’s cute level always triples after a few days apart.

None of us would have normally initiated a weekend like this. We’re just happy homeschool moms who don’t get out much. But we were motivated by the fact that one of us (that would be me) is about to leave the continent. So, we put the energy necessary into covering our responsibilities and we decided to do something for ourselves. I am so glad we did!

We had a great time. Three of us stayed together for the weekend, and our 4th friend lives in Atlanta, so we just spent Saturday with her. We had so much fun gabbing, laughing, eating, exploring, and encouraging one another. Even though it had been a long time since we have been able to spend that kind of time together, we didn’t miss a beat. They are all women whom I would still choose for friends if we met for the first time today. They are women who have a heart for their families and their communities. They are all seeking the Lord’s will for their lives and relying on Him for direction in all they do. I am so thankful for friends like these!

Angela, Nancy, Melanie, and baby Elyse on the top of Stone Mountain.
Four former KY girls (and 1 cute baby), enjoying an afternoon at Stone Mountain.
The sky tram that we braved up the mountain.
Very cool carving of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson.
Angela is an Atlanta pro, so she got us to a hole in the wall restaurant called Fat Matt's Rib Shack, lots of yummy food was consumed!